Primary Maths Catch Up
This Primary Maths Catch Up course is for you as a parent to use to learn techniques and strategies to then use with your child. I will be teaching you how to then teach your child. I won’t be directly teaching them myself.
The course has been designed and developed by me based on activities and teaching that I have done with my own one-to-one tutoring pupils and that have worked and helped them start back at the beginning and re-build their maths knowledge from the ground upwards, overcoming their maths anxiety.
Now is the perfect time to start to turn around their maths journey. After you start to work with your child, they should begin to start to feel different about maths. Be developing an ‘I can do it’ rather than ‘maths is hard’ and ‘I can’t do it’ attitude.
Who are these courses for?
Suppose your child is about 7 or 8 and has been struggling with the year 3 or year 4 maths that they have got from school. In that case, I may be able to help you, to help your child feel better about maths, and to then start to cope with the age-appropriate work.
The packs have been designed and developed for children age 7 upwards and are to be worked through on a daily basis until the pathways in the brain are formed, and your child starts to make sense of the concepts.
How long will it take?
You need to be able to set aside 10-20 minutes a day of quality time and dedicate it to helping your child turn around their maths learning journey. If you are in a position to do that every day or almost every day, your child will be able to start to feel different about maths.
I think that the fastest period of time that you are likely to complete Pack 1 – which is about counting, sequencing and subitising, is about 17 or 18 days. But that is the absolute minimum and would mean that your child is already so confident that they don’t need to repeat any activities. Also, that you did do your Primary Maths Catch Up on 7 out 7 days each week. So much more likely, is that it will take you about a month.
What are the packs?
The first series of 6 packs are all based on Number skills and building all the concepts in order, from the ground upwards. The series starts right back at the beginning with learning objectives that were first learned in EYFS. Each pack builds not in a year by year group basis but are in order, all the knowledge and skills that are needed for number skills to get your child up to the level of a year 2 or year 3 child.
- Pack 1 Counting, sequencing and subitising
- Pack 2 Number bonds, adding and subtracting to 20, and rounding to nearest ten
- Pack 3 Place value, comparing and ordering, number lines and simple money
- Pack 4 Odds and evens, doubling & halving, simple visual fractions.
- Pack 5 Place value, partitioning and calculations
- Pack 6 Skip counting, first times tables, multiplication and division
How does this system work?
Each pack has an overall theme and then is broken down into topics; each topic has a series of simple and fun activities to play with your child. I have included printable resources and clear and easy to follow videos where I step you through every activity.
Roughly speaking, you will do three different activities on any one day, keeping each activity in your daily routine until your child is confident. Then the next day you will add in the next activity. Pack 1 has 22 activities, and Pack 2 has 21 in total. Further packs will have similar numbers of activities.
Also included are videos which explain; the terminology schools and I use, why and how the activities build on each other, why I have included subtle elements within the activity which means that your child will understand quicker and better than ever before.
What do I get in the pack?
When you click to buy in the shop, you will receive several downloads. You will get pdf files of the printable resources, course overview, activity cards, and recording grids to fill in as you work through the course. You will also receive a document which is full of links to the activities hosted on my YouTube channel.
These videos are to be watched by you before you then do that activity with your child, they are not designed to be watched by your child, I speak to you on them as the parent. Watch the first topic videos, first, before you do anything else.
Watch them through and begin to get the hang of what sort of things you are going to be doing for the next few days.
What else will I need?
Print out the resources that you will use in the first topic. Print these out on pale pastel coloured card and preferably laminate or cover in sticky back plastic if you don’t have a laminator. Cut the cards out. See my Dyslexia friendly video for more information about the cards and colours.
Look for small objects that you already have or can buy cheaply and easily. For example, tiddly wink style counters, uni-fix blocks, beads, tiny plastic cars or animals, or dried beans like kidney beans, tiny fluffy pompoms often used for making eyes in craft projects, or playdough rolled into small balls. In Pack 1, most of the activities only need ten objects, some need 20, and a few need up to 30. I would suggest using something cheap and readily available like beans, for the activities that need 20 or 30 objects.
How to sell the idea to your child?
Suppose your child is already showing signs of having maths anxiety. You may have spent most of the COVID lockdown locked into a daily battle with them to get them to attempt the maths work that has been sent from school. In that case, you may be starting this journey from a quite tricky place.
If you have tried to get them to do year group tasks on worksheets and they haven’t managed to do them, and they have got upset, again then you may be starting this journey from a quite tricky place.
This graphics shows how avoidance tactics can often actually show that a child has quite severe maths anxiety.
The good news is that maths anxiety can be tackled. With the right tools and commitment, everyone can build confidence and resilience when it comes to mathematics.
The key to this intervention working is to convince your child to ‘buy into the idea.’ If you can explain and confidently & carefully reason with them, why Primary Maths Catch Up is different and works differently to year group work you will stand the best chance of it working. We can stop the self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘I am rubbish at maths’ and start to turn around their maths learning journey.
I use lots of analogies when talking to parents, but also when talking to my pupils too. Analogies help make sense of complicated ideas. I recommend sharing some of them with your child in the build-up to starting the course. If you can reason with them, but also be really confident that you now know what you are doing, then you are much more likely to be able to get them on board and buy into the idea. If they are on board, then this type of intervention is much more likely to work.
Why does this course take us back to the first maths and not focus on year group maths in the way other products and worksheets do?
Imagine that you are building a circular tower on a castle and you are laying a ring of bricks. Those bricks need a solid foundation beneath them, for the wall to be able to be solid and strong.
With each layer of bricks laid, the walls get higher and higher, but each side of the wall is reliant on the bricks below, to be able to be secure.
The way that concepts are linked, taught, and learned in maths is similar to building a tower. The different strands of the syllabus – number, measurement, shapes, and data handling are the faces around the sides of the tower.
If you were to stand and look at it – all of the walls that you can see from your viewpoint would be the ‘number concepts.’ Around the sides and back that you can’t see from there, with a smaller proportion of wall will be the other three concepts.
At school, each year, they lay a new ring of bricks, but time constraints and syllabuses and curriculums all hinder teachers, from noticing that a child has missing bricks from the previous layer. Or even if they do notice, often they have constraints that stop them from being able to act on this and help individual children as the general needs of the whole class have to be prioritised above the needs of that child.
As a result, through no one person’s fault, it can be the case that a child will have significant missing bricks in multiple lower layers. These gaps will be the underlying reasons why they are finding the year-group syllabus work so tricky.
No amount of relaying those bricks will actually help in the long run, because they will still not build a strong wall, because of the gaps beneath them. Another way of explaining this is “In maths, we often ask children to climb a ladder where the rungs are missing…”
For example, they can’t do column addition. Well if they do not have enough adding and subtracting, or number bonds or doubling and halving skills built solidly – they simply will not be able to make sense of the how and the why of the formal written method.
That is why we need to go back to the absolute beginning.
That analogy is quite powerful, and even young children can then understand that they find something hard because the bricks below it are missing or wobbly. And they, therefore, need to build the missing or wobbly ones again. I use the latest research on how to teach concepts in a multisensory way using fun activities and without a worksheet in sight!
Don’t be surprised that the first few topics will probably seem quite easy for your child and that in fact is great, because it means that they do have some good foundations after all. By playing the games or doing the activities and rather than struggling they will find that they succeed and start to thrive, they will begin to believe that maths isn’t the scary and awful thing, that they had come to believe.
Work your way through the activities and games in Primary Maths Catch Up. Stick with it, and together, we will build in the correct order, all the concepts, from the ground up. We can stop the self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘I am rubbish at maths’ and start to turn around their maths learning journey.
There is so much research and worksheets out on the internet that it is confusing…
There is now so much out there on the internet. Right, so your child is in year 3, so you type in year 3 maths, and you will have over 100 million results come back. Even if you narrow the search term right down to a very specific topic, you will still get thousands of results. How on earth can you sift through all that to find anything of any use? And that is one of the problems.
Likewise, you do get some results, and the website looks great. How do you know whether it is actually factually correct and of any quality?
When we first started to Google things on the internet, this started to be an issue. Finding quality information in amongst helpful and well-meaning sites, but also less well-meaning ones is tricky, and we need to learn to spot authentic information from wishy-washy stuff. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the internet, but most of it is aimed at teachers and university researchers, not parents just like you.
I have taken the hard work out of this, and I have done all the research and used a combination of my teaching experience, my professional development training and knowhow to find the best and bona fide educational research out there and combine it all into Primary Maths Catch Up. Everything I have developed has been for very good and linked reasons.
I have developed a series of courses that give all the ideas, reasoning and activities that are needed to help you to help your child, in an easy to understand way.
I have done all of the hard work so that you don’t have to!
How do we overcome their maths anxiety?
The following graphic shows the Growth Zone Model. When pupils are in the anxiety zone, healthy learning cannot take place. The aim should instead turn to reduce the anxiety as quickly and supportively as possible.
The Comfort Zone is where a learner could be working on familiar tasks independently, building their self-confidence and providing them with opportunities for practice.
By initially reducing the difficulty of the task to one that is within the Comfort Zone it means that their anxiety level will drop, now that the task is no longer causing them anxiety they have a very good chance of understanding the concept and gaining mastery.
We can then keep building on that, adding more and more concepts, and beginning to move into the Growth Zone. The Growth Zone is where new learning happens – here, it should be safe to make mistakes, get stuck, require support, and find activities challenging and tiring.
At the moment, your child probably doesn’t have the resilience to be in that challenging zone and will become agitated if pushed back into it too quickly.
By starting with simple concepts, which definitely will need re-learning, we can foster and grow your child’s resilience and then be able to push them on into the Growth Zone as the activities become a bit harder.
Maths anxiety, processing speed and working memory
Maths anxiety is not always obvious: it can sometimes be invisible and often unnoticed. It can manifest itself as poor behaviour, anger, frustration, avoidance, under-attainment, and helplessness.
Linked to the inability to remember a number fact, or a method is the science between anxiety, processing speed and working memory. This is a real biggy in maths teaching and learning!
Working memory is the part of memory that is used in the here and now, to do things and remember them, as we are doing it. If I ask you to repeat back a string of numbers or words – you are using your working memory to hold them for the duration of the task.
If I ask you to listen to 3 numbers and then add them up, your ability to do this quickly and comfortably, reflects how fast, your processing speed is. So, rather like the processor speed of your computer. That is like our brains.
Now imagine that you are scared of doing maths, for whatever reasons, and you become anxious at the thought of having to do maths…
Now, when we become anxious, our brains divert brainpower to our’ fight or flight brain’. As this happens, our processing speed and working memory get much less brainpower than usual. This is like having many tabs or windows open on your computer, and it, therefore, taking longer to load a screen.
The more anxious you are, the less your brain allows you to process your thoughts at your best possible speed. Thereby you become more anxious as you can’t do that task and so on becoming a horrible, horrible downward spiral.
If we can break the anxiety spiral for your child, by starting back at the beginning and succeeding and winning and enjoying maths, we can alter the whole future of their maths learning journey.
Why do we need to spend 10-20 minutes each day?
Why does it need to be 10-20 minutes a day? Why can’t we do an hour in one go, once a week?
Another analogy that I share with my pupils and their parents is this. Imagine that you are out walking, with your dog, for example, and that you walked through a field of long grass. The first day that you walked across the grass, it would be hard going, walking through such long grass.
If you went back the next day, it might still be hard, but if you kept to exactly the same route, some of the grass might not have pinged back up from the day before, and you might find it just a little bit easier. If you go back each day and walk the same route, a pathway will start to form. Keep this up over a period of time, and there will be sort of a path…but also a grumpy farmer!
Every time your brain practices something, pathways are laid down, called a neural network. The more time this memory is accessed, the stronger the route to it becomes.
If in addition to repeating something, the memory is anchored in several places at the same time using the senses, the brain’s ability to access that memory dramatically increases. This is why maths that involves the concrete and pictorial, as well as abstract, has been proven to help children so much more.
My courses use practical activities that will help anchor the concepts much better. Doing something with objects or pictures is also much more fun for children.
Right, back to the grass analogy – if you only walk down that path every few months the grass will have grown back, and it will be just as hard to walk down as it was on the first day. If, however, you do walk there every day or every few days there will now be a bit of a path, and the grass won’t have grown back.
That is one of the reasons why for my courses and also for my one-to-one teaching, I recommend regular daily practice. You will be amazed at the difference it makes to the speed and depth of progress, and how much better your child will feel as they begin to become less anxious and phobic about maths.
If we can break the anxiety spiral for your child, by starting back at the beginning and succeeding and winning and enjoying maths, we can alter the whole future of their maths learning journey.
CPA and multi-sensory methods
Children need to start off using real objects which in maths are called ‘concrete’ manipulatives so that they are touching and moving them. Once they can do tasks with real objects, we move them on to using pictures of these objects. In maths, we call them ‘pictorials’ or ‘pictorial representations’ Then we move on to just ‘doing’ the number sum. We call this the ‘abstract’.
But research has shown, that if children are moved on from concrete or even pictorials too quickly to ‘just do the sum’ in the abstract – this is when they struggle to grasp the concept and end up losing confidence and the ability to tackle the task.
Sadly, this can be the standard way of teaching children who are in KS2. Historically, any concrete objects were often relegated to EYFS and KS1 and hardly ever used even if they were in a box in the KS2 classroom. Children ended up feeling babyish if they needed or were made to use them, fostering a sense of resentment that they had to use the blocks or base ten equipment.
The good news is that latest research from including Singapore Maths, and White Rose Maths shows that the higher up Primary and even Secondary school that some concrete and plenty of pictorials are used the happier and higher attaining the pupils become.
Many schools now base their lessons on either of these schemes that focus on understanding and learning for mastery and use CPA pictorials right up to GCSE level. I believe that this is great news as it allows non-specialist Primary teachers access to top-quality lesson planning and resources.
But, and there is another but here – the most benefit is gained from a child having been taught in this way all the way through, and unless your child is still little and also goes to an early-adopting school they probably haven’t had the benefit of this mastery and CPA approach from the beginning.
In this Primary Maths Catch Up series I very much use the concrete and pictorial as well as bringing in the abstract, later on, using practical resources, games and activities. So, even if they haven’t been taught this way at school, we will do it together.
What inspired me to develop Primary Maths Catch Up?
This series of courses was born out of working with Child B and realising that there are many more children out there, who for whatever reason, have also missed out on those basic maths building blocks that would be expected in EYFS and KS1 and that they need help.
I can only teach a limited number of lessons every week and so can only help a limited number of families, and I have become more and more aware of this recently. I want to be able to help more children so that they can stop feeling so terrible and anxious about maths and begin to thrive.
I have talked to other adults, one of whom is in my extended family. Hearing how badly her maths anxiety has affected her life was distressing and one that I hadn’t realised. I explained that I was developing this new product and she broke down and wept for the child she once was and the adult she then became and how always finding maths so hard has affected her. She wept with relief that with my help, other children wouldn’t have to end up feeling like she did. Thank you, Cousin Niki, for your honesty and for helping push me to create the courses.
If a parent’s course such as mine had been available to B’s mother, I honestly believe that we could have prevented or at least lessened all those years of maths anxiety and crippling self-esteem that he has suffered.
I know that most children are thankfully not such an extreme case as B, but even so, if with my help you can step in and prevent this worst-case scenario unfolding and happening for your child it will be worth it!
This is the case study of the most extreme pupil that I have taught. B came to me for maths support; he was Dyslexic and had also been diagnosed with Dyscalculia.
After an initial lesson, it became obvious that the reason why B couldn’t pass his exam wasn’t really because he couldn’t do the GCSE content, but that he, in fact, had not secured any of the basic maths building blocks that would be expected in EYFS and KS1 and so he had no foundations at all to build upon. Without these basics, very, very little of the harder content made any sense to him at all.
Maths had never ever made sense to him, and he had long since reached the point where he had given up even trying to understand as everything just went over his head. He was so beaten down by the system that it was heart-breaking to meet him and hear of his struggles. Although he had always been at the very bottom of the class, his schools only ever tried to teach him the age-appropriate material, never going back to basics in the way that he needed.
This was a case for a major ‘Back to Basics’ intervention, where we started back at those fundamental concepts like spot patterns, counting and subitising, and number recognition. This was a really big ask of such an old teenager. Still, he faced it stoically and with relief that someone finally cared enough to help him conquer his maths phobia.
Week on week he made tiny steps in the right direction. We all agreed that this was going to be a long process. We worked on filling in those very early basic concepts and working towards making it easier for him to live in a World surrounded by maths. Next, we then tried to improve his sense of time, and he managed to learn to tell the time for the very first time. The other big stumbling block for an adult is to understand money; therefore this was also a big focus for us each week.
B will probably never have the mathematical skills that other adults have. Still, he does no longer have those fundamental gaps and now has some skills with which to live an independent life and he is no longer so anxious or ground down by it.
Hopefully, your child isn’t and will never have such an extreme case of maths anxiety and gaping holes in their early knowledge. If the cost of buying the series of Primary Maths Catch Up courses and the time that you invest in it can prevent the level of heartbreak that B and my Cousin Niki endured, then it will have certainly been worth it!
With over 20 years educational experience and 10 years as a specialist maths tutor, I am not only a fully qualified Primary maths specialist teacher, but I have been Head of Maths at a Prep School and previously developed and implemented a school-wide maths curriculum.
Before re-training as a primary teacher, I gained a degree in Mechanical Engineering and then worked for five years as a Technical Author, writing technical training manuals in industry.
I am now a full-time, online, specialist maths tutor, offering a bespoke tutoring service.
I specialise in helping children who have fallen through the cracks.
I wanted to be able to help many more families than I can teach one-to-one each week and that is where the idea for Primary Maths Catch Up grew from.